Weakening Hurricane Earl pounds N.C., moves up East Coast

Hurricane Earl churned up waves along the coast of North Carolina's Outer Banks late Thursday night. The storm sent heavy rain and strong winds through the area. Forecasters say it could push further out into the Atlantic before slamming into New England.
By Rob Stein, Michael W. Savage and Debbi Wilgoren
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, September 3, 2010; 3:41 PM

Hurricane Earl lost strength Friday as it churned northward off the Eastern Seaboard after pounding the Outer Banks with heavy rains and strong winds overnight.

The National Weather Service downgraded the storm to a Category 1 hurricane in its 11 a.m. EDT advisory and reduced the warning areas. But it cautioned that Earl "is expected to remain a large hurricane as it approaches southeastern New England" Friday night.

Earl was packing winds of 80 mph, with hurricane-force winds extending outward up to 70 miles, as it moved toward the north-northeast at about 21 mph, the weather service said at 2 p.m. EDT.

It said a tropical storm warning south of the Virginia-North Carolina border has been discontinued but that hurricane warning remains in effect for areas around Cape Cod, Mass., including Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket Island.

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) said Friday afternoon that the worst of the threat from Hurricane Earl has passed Ocean City. Sunny skies have begun appearing along the beach, he said, and the state's coastline is expected to emerge unscathed.

"Ocean City is doing fine," O'Malley told reporters shortly before 3 p.m. EDT. "We prepared for a big hit, and, fortunately, we dodged the cannonball. It veered off to sea, and that's the best hurricane that you can ever hope for."

O'Malley said the state learned a few things about its readiness for a big hurricane, such as which shelters have working generators and might need new equipment. But he said Earl largely amounted to a test run for the state.

Earlier Friday, the weakening storm passed around 90 miles offshore after being downgraded from Category 3 to a Category 2, with winds slowing from 140 mph to 105 mph.

Sporadic flooding was reported along the barrier islands of North Carolina, along with some power outages and relatively minor beach damage. On land, hurricane-force wind gusts of 78 mph were recorded, along with sustained winds of 60 mph.

In Ocean City, Md., and Bethany Beach and Rehoboth Beach, Del., winds were far less powerful. Only about an inch of rain was expected as the storm moved through between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Officials said people would be allowed on the beach in Ocean City but banned from going into the churning water.

In its 2 p.m. advisory, the National Weather Service said a tropical storm warning is in effect for parts of the East Coast from the Virginia-North Carolina border to Maine and Nova Scotia.

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